We've seen flare ups regarding long problematic civil rights issues with the ridiculous circus at the Southern Baptist Convention over condemning the alt-right.
Now, the curtain is being pulled back on how bizarre and misguided theologies surrounding women and their roles leading to the covering up, excusing, and outright enabling of physical and sexual abuse. The scandal with former Southwestern Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson is just an exemplar. In his tenure, he terminated a highly acclaimed Hebrew professor because she was a woman and "indulging in the exposition of the scripture." Patterson stated a "woman should never go to court with marital problems" even if those marital problems included physical abuse. If you want to be sick, listen to his advice to victims of domestic abuse. Patterson further ignored reports of twenty-five women who claimed they were sexually molested or harassed by Darrell Gilyard. And more recently convinced a rape victim to not contact the police and shamed her for letting the attacker into her home.
It seems to be the only conclusion we can draw from these actions is the one that Wade Burleson reached on his Istoria Ministries Blog "A woman divorcing a man is far worse than a woman enduring physical abuse. A single woman inviting a man into her apartment is a far worse sin than a single woman being raped by the man she invited over."
We could see this as just one person, just one instance of a leader in power abusing that power, but that ignores the response to his actions. Once Patterson's actions were brought to light and scrutinized, he was demoted and removed from his active presidency, but the initial decision of the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary allowed him to remain as President Emeritus with compensation and was allowed to live on campus as the first theologians-in-residence at the Baptist Heritage Center. It took another week for there to be a sufficient outcry and petition for him to be fired.
It further ignores the preponderance of the evidence. We could also talk about Illinois megachurch pastor Bill Hybels and the lewd comments, unwanted kisses, and invitations to his hotel room that led to his early retirement. About Bill Gothard. About the cover up and excusing of Josh Duggar.
How the Southern Baptist Convention Mission Board allegedly covered up for a man with a history of sexual assaults overseas, who would repeat his offenses back in the states when he returned home.
How the Sovereign Grace Ministries on the East Coast allegedly failed to report sexual abuse claims in the 1980s and 1990s, causing secondary trauma through pastoral counseling.
If you really want to feel the weight, search for #ChurchToo on Twitter.
We could get more personal and talk about how in our various home Bible studies we have heard at least two personal stories of elders/deacons that were known to be sexually abusers and whose actions were covered up by the local church. The fear of exposure for the church weighed greater than any concern for the victims.
We will continue to have more and more of these stories come to light, like in the #MeToo/#ChurchToo movement, where more and more people feel empowered to have their voice be heard. We have an epidemic that needs to be dealt with.
Sam Ranier proposed four actions that are required:
- We need repentance, not excuses
- We need humility, not charisma
- We need to care about character as much as we do about doctrine
- We need new earthly heroes
I would propose a fifth:
- We need to care about being holy more than we care about being right.
I've written about this before, but the desire to be right above all is an adventure in missing the point. I wholly believe it is one of the most detrimental instincts in the church. It is at the root at a number of church splits, putting doctrinal interpretation over discipleship. Any number of horrors can be justified under the banner of being "right." After all, the Southern Baptist Convention believed it was right when it believed slavery was justified, when it believed segregation was appropriate, when it believed in the "Curse of Ham," when it opposed interracial marriage. It would shock most modern Baptists today to know that the Convention believed it was right when it supported abortion in 1971 and 1974.
Let's be holy instead. Let's put aside divisions and improper distinctions. "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28. And may we approach these issues with humility, the victims with love and support, and each other always with grace.